Sunday, September 23, 2007

what's not there

I received a notecard from a friend at work. She sent it to thank me for a condolance. On front it shows the image at right, plum blossoms and camelias. The back contains all of chapter 11 of the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tsu.
{painting by Yun Shouping, 1633-1690; source:}

Chapter 11
Tao Te Ching
by Lao Tsu, from the back of the card
Thirty spokes share the wheel's hub;
It is the center hole that makes it useful.
Shape clay into a vessel;
It is the space within that makes it useful.
Cut doors and windows for a room;
It is the holes which make it useful.
Therefore profit comes from what is there;
Usefulness from what is not there.
The image, from wikipedia, shows Lao zu leaving China on his water buffalo.Ursula Le Guin's version:
The uses of not

Thirty spokes
meet in the hub.
Where the wheel isn't
is where it's useful.

Hollowed out,
clay makes a pot.
Where the pot's not
is where it's useful.

Cut doors and windows
to make a room.
Where the room isn't,
there's room for you.

So the profit in what is
is in the use of what isn't

She says: "One of the things I love about Lao Tzu is he is so funny. He's explaining a profound and difficult truth here, one of those counter-intuitive truths that, when the mind can accept them, suddenly double the size of the universe. He goes about it with this deadpan simplicity, talking about pots." (p. 14)

Tao te ching : a book about the way and the power of the way, by Laozi.; Ursula K Le Guin; Jerome P Seaton, Boston : Shambhala, 1997.

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